French press review 9 November 2013

Standard & Poor’s downgrading of France’s credit rating by one notch to AA is the front-page story in the French press today. It deals a further blow to the embattled Socialist government of President François Hollande.

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Le Monde holds that the American credit agency’s trimming of France’s previous AA+ is motivated by its conclusion that the Hollande government's reforms will not improve the country's medium-term prospects and that lower economic growth is constraining the government's ability to balance the budget.

Dossier: Eurozone in crisis

Libération observes that France's 10-year borrowing costs jumped after the announcement, with bond yields increasing to 2.389 per cent from the 2.158 per cent at the close of trading on Thursday.

It claims that the downgrade leaves France with little room to manoeuvre to raise revenue it badly needs to face up to an eventual crisis. All the government can do now, according to Libé, is sit and pray that the candlelight of its 0.9 per cent economic forecasts for 2014 will not go off.

The downgrade is a “red card” for Hollande, following the bankruptcy of his economic policies, writes Le Figaro. For the right-wing paper, it is the blunt response the president deserves after failing to heed the advice of the OECD and the IMF about the low competitiveness of the French economy.

Le Figaro establishes a direct relationship between the tense atmosphere caused by staggering unemployment, factory closures, labour conflicts and the downgrade. It points to calls by Left Front leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon for a fiscal revolution and demonstrations in front of the finance ministry to protest against the Value Added Tax starting in January as further proof of the government’s fallout with its electorate.

For Le Figaro, the poisoned political atmosphere and Hollande’s plummeting popularity have destabilised the Socialist-led governing coalition making France the new sick man of Europe.

Le Monde warns that the a row over revelations about US spying on its European allies could undermine the second round of Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks opening in Brussels on Monday.

The paper says that preparations are still being clouded by a wave of outrage among EU leaders, most notably German Chancellor Angela Merkel, after the revelations that the US security services tapped the phones of European leaders. The second round of talks had been postponed due to the US government shutdown last month.

Libération’s special focus this weekend is on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which are now just three months away. The paper says that the games will be the first world event to be held in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union and President Vladmir Putin, branded "the Tsar", is determined to make the event a symbol of his authority and influence as he spends his 13th year in the Kremlin.

Libé says the games are fashioned according to Putin’s fantasies, disproportionate, heavily policed and the most expensive Olympics ever held. The Kremlin has splashed out 36 billion euros to get Sochi ready to host the world amid reports of corruption on an unprecedented scale at construction sites.

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